Heavy Weapon was just such a game for me – first published by PopCap Games in 2005 as an Xbox Arcade title, it’s a side-scrolling shooter in the vein of Contra, but more similar to classic top-down arcade shooters like 1942. Fantastic game with perfectly scaling difficulty, wild boss fights, and intense bullet-hell combat. Perhaps more valuable than the hours of gaming I’ve gotten from it though, is a lesson in risk and reward.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s some Heavy Weapon gameplay footage (and first ever TTC YouTube video!!!):
Now back to the serious stuff…
Later levels of Heavy Weapon require quick twitch gameplay tactics and superb reflexes as bullets and beams are raining down upon the player non-stop. Luckily players have a range of power-ups they can pick up, including an incredibly handy shield that stacks up to three times, allowing the player’s tank to take three hits before losing its shield entirely. Obviously, collecting the shield as it becomes available can determine whether you complete or fail a level. Many times, I found myself zooming through a screen-wide field of bullets in an attempt to collect a shield powerup.I often did this with only one shield equipped, so the risk of death was definitely present.
There are three potential consequences to this action:
1. I make it across the map unscathed and boost my shield
This is the best outcome – I’ve successfully dodged my way through the bullet maze and accomplished the task of boosting my shield. This is the least likely scenario.
2. I collect the shield power-up, but lose my current shield in the process
I’ve succeeded in obtaining the new shield, but it serves the same purpose as the shield I lost in the process. I’ve essentially gained nothing. This is the most likely scenario.
3. I lose my shield, and my life, in pursuit of the new shield
I’ve failed completely – not only did I sacrifice my perfectly fine shield for something that serves the same purpose, I failed to collect the shield I pursued.
Time and time again, I found myself in scenario B or C, wondering why I’d taken the risk to gain the new shield in the first place. After a particularly frustrating string of deaths, I put down the controller (so I wouldn’t throw it) and sat in silence thinking thoughts like: “I hate this game!” “Video games are stupid.” “My thumbs are sore.” “What’s wrong with me, why can’t I have the patience to sit and avoid bullets instead of repeatedly risking it all and failing!?”
That’s when it dawned on me – I was doing something in the game that the majority of us do repeatedly over the course of our lives: risk everything in pursuit of something we already have.
Replace the word “shield” with “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” and apply it to your life and experiences. (Rather than gaining a second bf/gf in scenario 1, imagine it as gaining a better boyfriend or girlfriend.)
This same risk vs reward ratio applies to many other factors of life including jobs and friendships. Do you sacrifice time with your lifelong friends to explore relationships with new people? Do you leave the job you’ve had for 3 years to accept an offer at a new company?
This is the ultimate question: At the end of the day, is losing something you already have in the pursuit of something or someone that serves the same purpose worth the risk of losing the relationship or career you’ve already built? Even worse, is it worth potentially ending up alone or unemployed by losing your current partner or job and never obtaining what you sought after?
Risk-taking is a fact of life – it’s up to you to decide whether the Reward is worth the Risk.
Your game has loaded – Take The Controller and play!
Have you taken major risks and reaped major rewards? Have you taken a huge risk and regretted it? Share your story in the comments below!